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Catch Me In A Mason Jar

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Kim Seokjin, barely past nine years old, gripped tightly onto his mother’s hand as they traversed through the hospital. He was familiar with his surroundings, but felt comfort in holding his mothers because of his young age. The boy let his eyes wander everywhere, curiously looking at the, which were all painted a dull grey, no color popping out vividly like he had always hoped. But the hospital was always the same, and Seokjin knew that well. He always heard coughing, crying, and whispers from within its walls, and it tore him apart. No matter how much he wanted to run away from this place, it always called back to him. Maybe it was his destiny to follow in his father’s footsteps. 

It’s Sunday afternoon, their weekly visit his father, who had worked as a doctor on the fifth floor. A smile appears on his mother’s face as they stepped out of the elevator and made their way to his office at the end of the hall. Seokjin smiles as well, happy to meet his father at work. 

He jumped at the sight of his father and leaped into his arms happily. His father chuckled and ruffled his hair, to which his mother clicked her tongue and ran her fingers through it to tidy it up. His parents started to talk, and he felt bored out of his mind, not fully understanding what they were both saying. The small boy tugged at his mother’s dress, and she crouched down, reaching his height. “Why don’t you run along to your friend over there while I talk with your father?” she suggested, and his eyes lit up with glee.

The small boy dashed out of the room, gaining the delighted giggles from the nurses on his way. He quickly ran to the third room on that floor, where his new friend was staying. Kim Taehyung. Room 703. He knew it well, memorized it. He stood to his tippy toes to grasp the doorknob, trying to reach it, but it was no use. With a pout, he furrowed his eyebrows in frustration. A nearby nurse walked over with a smile, taking the doorknob in her hand and twisting it open for him. In a rush, he bowed quickly and thanked her before he ran into the room to his friend, who noticed him immediately.

“Jinnie!” the boy exclaimed, tossing his comic book away and looking down at him from his seat on the bed.

Seokjin struggled as he took a chair and used it as leverage to sit next to him on the bed. “Hello, Taehyungie!” he exclaimed, kicking his feet onto the bed.

Taehyung, who was smaller than him by a large margin, wiggled out of the bedsheets. “Want to see the new trucks my mommy bought me?” he asked, and Seokjin nodded eagerly. The younger leaned over to pull out the nightstand drawer and present a box filled with brilliantly colored toy trucks. Struck with fascination, Seokjin grinned at the sight of them, and they both laughed and played for what felt like months. 

“I have a lot of big, big trucks at my house!” Seokjin mentioned, putting his hands in the air to explain its size. Taehyung giggled as he put his hands down. “You should come over to my house one day. We can play for hours, and maybe our mommies will let you sleep over!”

His grin faltered at the sight of Taehyung shaking his head. “I can’t, Jinnie,” he replied, and Seokjin pouted.

“Why not?” he whined.

Taehyung fumbled with the truck in his hand nervously, unsurely. “My doctors and parents won’t let me leave the hospital.”

Seokjin frowned, furrowing his eyebrows. “That’s really mean of them,” he stated, and Taehyung nodded knowingly. He tapped his chin, thinking, before his eyebrows quirked up and Taehyung looked at him confusedly. “When I grow up, I’m going to make you super better so you can come over to my house every day!”

Taehyung beamed, his face brightening. “Really?” he asked, and Seokjin nodded enthusiastically. “You promise?”

Seokjin presented his pinky finger. “Promise!” 

The seven-year-old giggled and linked their pinky fingers. “When we’re older, I will make sure you get better so you never have to sit in this bad place ever again! It’s so boring here!”

A giggle escaped his lips again and he took Seokjin into his arms tightly. “Thank you, Jinnie,” he whispered, and Seokjin grinned widely, relishing in the embrace for a moment.

Seokjin pulled away and picked up a purple truck nearby. “Now,” he started, fumbling with its parts, “tell me about your favorite truck!”

Taehyung grinned from ear to ear and picked up a green one. “Sure!” he exclaimed, and Seokjin couldn’t help but giggle.

 

--

 

It’s Friday: Seokjin’s daily after school visit to the hospital. He had told an excuse to his parents years ago: It’s for shadowing, of course, he would say endlessly, Shadowing. You wanted me to be a doctor, didn’t you? His parents both knew it was to see Taehyung, the nurses had told them so. They laughed at his excuses and the redness on his cheeks that went along with them. Sure, they would reply, shadowing. But they were never short of proud of Seokjin’s undying loyalty to his friend. 

Taehyung told him some years ago that his parents were afraid that he would overwork himself, so they forced him to stay inside the hospital at all times. His disease never allowed him to explore the outside world and because of this, Seokjin was Taehyung’s only friend. Seokjin, the day of his middle school graduation, promised to visit him as much as he could throughout the week as hasn’t broken the promise since.

Whenever he visited, Taehyung was always sleeping, sometimes even dragging Seokjin down next to him to nap together; their parents found it laughable, snapping a few pictures of them here and there. 

He stopped by the convenience store that day to pick up some of Taehyung’s favorite snacks: strawberries, ice cream, and chips. Seokjin found it funny that such a small, weak boy could eat so much and gain nothing from it.

As he stepped foot onto the fifth floor, his hand instinctively came up to wave a polite hello to the nurses before bowing gracefully to his father on the way over to the third room. As he was about to knock on the door, he heard squealing and threw the door open in worry. Taehyung stared at him wide-eyed, and he was about to ask what was wrong before his eyes drifted to the phone in his hands. “Tae?” he asked, still looking at him with worry in his eyes.

Taehyung chuckled. “What’s up with you?” he replied, crossing his legs and leaning his forearms on his thighs.

“Just got worried,” he replied slowly, moving to sit on the bed with him. “It’s normal for people get alarmed when they hear screaming, you know.”

The boy snorted, shoving his hand in his face. “I was just playing a rhythm game. I tried to complete a song on hard mode, but I failed it twice,” he explained, and Seokjin peered at his screen.

“Oh, that game?” he said, moving back and leaning on the palms of his hands. “I heard it’s pretty hard. The girls in my school are, like, addicted to it or something. Are you sure this is healthy for you?”

“Oh, shut it—“ The boy whipped his head around with a hateful gaze before his eyes landed on the white bag in his best friend’s hands. His jaw dropped at the realization of what it could be. “You didn’t!” he screamed, trying to dive for the bag.

“Hey, hey,” the fifteen-year-old warned, pushing the dirty blonde’s chest back, “calm down. I don’t want to be blamed for your death right now.”

Taehyung scoffed loudly and sat properly on his bed, hands up. “Alright, alright,” he complied, “I’m sitting criss-cross applesauce. Happy?”

“Very,” Seokjin replied, tugging the contents out of the bag and presenting it to him. Taehyung’s eyes lit up like stars at the sight of all the food and he grabbed at the strawberry ice cream, quickly tearing the wrapper off of it. Seokjin watched as Taehyung bit into it, immediately pulling back and wincing from a brain freeze.

Seokjin laughed. “You’re like a child,” he mentioned, and Taehyung pouted.

He glared at him through his long bangs. “I’m only a year younger than you.”

Seokjin shook his head, raising his hand to brush the hair out of his eyes. “Technically you’re two years younger than me.”

Taehyung rolled his eyes. “I’ll call security to throw you out.”

He snorted. “Try it. My dad basically owns the hospital.”

Taehyung couldn’t help but giggle at their playful banter. Seokjin would be lying if he said his heart didn’t skip a beat at the sound. Surprised by his own heart, he grabbed a bag of chips and snapped it open as to distract himself. Taehyung leaned over and showed him a funny meme from his phone to which Seokjin laughed petulantly. Taehyung blushed lightly before putting his head down. “Oh, I was meaning to ask...how many friends do you have, hyung?” he whispered, putting his phone down on his lap.

“What? How many friends do I have?” he echoed, an eyebrow raised while reading the ingredients on the back of the chip bag. Taehyung nodded sheepishly. “I don’t know, three?”

Taehyung took a deep breath. “Can you name them for me?”

Seokjin looked at him strangely. “You’re oddly curious,” he remarked. “Jung Hoseok, Lee Jaeyoon, and you.”

He bit his lip, leaning closer. “Your mom told me you’re pretty popular,” he mentioned, and Seokjin rolled his eyes almost too quickly after he finished his sentence.

“Ugh, that’s what you meant? They’re just some girls, Tae,” he explained, and Taehyung hugged his knees close to his chest awkwardly. “I don’t blame them, though. I can’t help that I’m so beautiful.” He pretended to cut his finger on his jaw.

Taehyung forced a laugh out of his mouth. “Sorry for asking, I just…” he trailed off, and he felt tears forming in his eyes. “I just wanted to know how it felt like to be popular and have friends. God, sorry, nevermind. I think stupid disease thing did a number on me.”

He sniffled, and it broke Seokjin’s heart to see him crying. “Tae, please don’t cry. I brought you your favorite snacks and everything,” he tried to cheer him up, but tears continued to run down his cheeks like a waterfall. Taehyung fell forward, hiding his face in the crook of his neck so Seokjin couldn’t see his crying face. Seokjin instinctively placed his hands on his back and rubbed gently. He looked around, not sure what to do about the crying boy in his arms. “Tae, do you remember the promise I made you?”

Taehyung sniffled, muffling a “which promise?” into his shoulder. Seokjin smiled affectionately. “I promised you that I am going to become the best doctor in the world and knock that stupid disease out of you. In no time you’ll be cured, and then you can spend the rest of your days knowing what having friends feels like.” Taehyung started to cry harder, wrapping his arms around him and clutching at his shirt. “You can join the art class you’ve always wanted to join, become the actor you always wanted to be, and travel the world! It’s just a matter of time, Tae.”

Seokjin rubbed circles on his back, trying to calm him down to the best of his ability. They sat in silence with Taehyung sniffling and slowly leveling his breathe. Seokjin made sure he wasn’t overworking himself by feeling Taehyung’s heartbeat against his chest, silently measuring it in his head. “I don’t care about making friends, anymore, hyung,” Taehyung suddenly murmured, making the teen jump a bit. “All I need is you. I know you’re the only one that can help me, Jinnie. You're the only one for me. Please make me better.”

Seokjin heard his voice crack and shudder, and he shut his eyes to hold in his tears. “I will, Tae,” he whispered as he felt Taehyung’s heartbeat slowly fall. Taehyung barely nodded against his chest before going limp in his arms. Seokjin ran his fingers through his dyed blonde hair and sighed.

“I promise.”

 

--

 

“Going home now, doctor?”

Seokjin glanced up from his clipboard and let out a chuckle. “Afraid not,” he replied, setting it on the blindingly white counter. “One last patient, to visit, remember?” The nurse gave him a polite, affirmative laugh before turning to assist another visitor at the front desk.

He waved a farewell to her and ran his hand along the dulled grey walls of the hospital, making his way to the third room on the fifth floor, his feet taking him there like his body was on autopilot. When he opened the door, the man sitting on the bed looked up from his phone and smiled. “Hey there, doctor,” he greeted, shrinking down to lay on his back.

Seokjin grinned and tiredly dragged himself over to the white chair next to the bed. He sunk back into the seat and rested his arms on the armrest. “Hey there, patient,” he replied playfully.

The man chuckled and turned his phone off, turning over on his side to face him. Seokjin observed him silently as he laid his head on his white pillow and stared at back at him before breaking the comfortable silence. “What’s the number looking like?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Hmm?” Seokjin hummed, crossing one leg over the other. “What’re you talking about, Tae?”

Taehyung looked to the floor. “The number of days until I’m out of here,” he answered, and Seokjin glanced to the side, not wanting to make eye contact with Taehyung at all. “I haven’t been outside in years. I can’t go looking for love from inside the walls of a hospital room.”

“Years must be an exaggeration,” Seokjin said instead of telling him that letting him out permanently was unlikely. “Your parents permitted you a day out last month, right?”

Taehyung shook his head. “Two months ago,” he corrected, and Seokjin rolled his eyes. “and it was for a couple of hours before they came chasing me down again. It was a shame. I met this pretty boy at the mall. Forgot his name, though.”

Seokjin nodded. “I remember you telling me that, yes.” His heart throbbed a bit at the memory. It hurt him to hear that Taehyung was enamored by a boy he had met for a few minutes, but he decided to forget it. And he forgot it permanently with a purpose. He didn’t enjoy being reminded of it at all.

Taehyung hummed, looking the elder up and down. Seokjin had become the doctor that he promised Taehyung and his parents that he would become, and his heart swelled with pride. Seeing him in his white lab coat every day made him happy, and he was glad to see that Seokjin was happy, too. At twenty-six, Seokjin was already a world-renowned scientist and doctor, and Taehyung was still his useless self, sitting in a hospital bedroom for God knows how long. Every second he had spent on Earth had been in that hospital, as far as he was concerned. But at least Seokjin was happy, Taehyung always said to himself when those thoughts came to his mind.

He watched as Seokjin’s eyes drooped and he struggled to stay awake. “Are you going home now?” Seokjin shrugged in response. “Do you want to go home?”

“I, uh…” he trailed off, looking sheepishly to the side. “I know you get lonely in here. You’re always free to walk around if you’d like, maybe meet me and the nurses outside of this room. You know I just don't want to leave you alone.”

Taehyung turned pink but buried himself in his sheets to hide his face. “Got it,” he said. Seokjin looked up at him. “But really, just go home. I know you’re tired. You’ll see me tomorrow anyway. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”

Seokjin frowned, feeling a bit guilty about his last sentence. “Are you su—“

“Leave, doctor, before I call your mother in.”

With a light chuckle, he stood from his seat and made his way to the door. He turned back to Taehyung as he placed his hand on the doorknob. “I’ll make sure that you’ll get out of here soon,” he told him, and Taehyung turned to him with a smile.

“I’m counting on you, doc,” he replied, slamming his head back into his pillow. Seokjin laughed and left the room, leaving Taehyung alone in his room another day.

 

--

 

He glanced at the sun-stained window with a smile as he opened Taehyung’s door. “The sun has been shining very brightly recently,” Seokjin mentioned, pulling his white lab coat on and stuffing his hands in his pockets. It was the next morning, and, surprisingly, Taehyung was already up. Usually he would wake up at noon, but it was seven in the morning and he was wide awake.

“I know,” Taehyung replied, not looking up from the ground.

Seokjin frowned and walked over to him. “Are you okay?” he asked, carding his fingers through his blonde hair. Taehyung hummed and stayed silent for a few seconds.

The man in front of him looked up. “Peachy,” he finally replied, placing his hand on Seokjin’s, relishing in its warmth. Seokjin chuckled, running his thumb over his cheek like he would to a kitten. Afraid that it seemed obvious that he was enjoying this, he tried to tug his hand away, but Taehyung wouldn’t let him. It has the elder pausing abruptly. 

“There’s something on your mind, I can tell,” Seokjin responded after a moment, and Taehyung chuckled.

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s something.”

“Really, Jinnie, it’s fine.”

“No. I want to know what it is.”

Tears formed at the edges of his eyes. “I-It’s okay.”

“Taehyung, I want to know what is the matter wit—“

“I hate this place, okay!?” Taehyung screamed, pushing his hand away. Seokjin’s eyes widened as the man wrapped himself in his blanket and tears spilled down his cheeks. “I hate being here. The same boring walls, the same food, the same thing every single fucking day! I hate it so much, hyung!” He sobbed and sobbed, and Seokjin stood there, not knowing what to do. “I’ve been looking at these same four walls every single day of my life since I was six! They say they can cure me, but I am almost twenty-five and nothing has happened yet! It hurts, Jin, it hurts everytime I wake up!” 

Seokjin ran to his side, noticing that he was becoming limp, almost swaying as he screamed. He kept him from falling over, and they locked eyes. “Taehyung,” Seokjin whispered, and Taehyung reached up to grab his white coat.

“Hyung,” Taehyung started, his grip tightening. “Get me out of here.” Tears spilled onto his coat, coloring it grey with wetness. Seokjin didn’t mind, though, he just kept on staring forward.  

The elder nodded, running his fingers through his hair to calm him down. “I will,” he replied, his heart burning with guilt and earnest. Taehyung tried to smile, but his eyes fell closed, and Seokjin sighed. He tired himself out, something he hasn’t done in a while. As he laid him down, he placed a kiss on his forehead and whispered: “I will, Taehyung, I will.” 

He called in one of the nurses to take care of him and made a note to himself to visit him again during his break. He couldn’t help but feel bad for Taehyung. He would never know what it felt to be a patient, and especially not knowing much of the outside for almost twenty years of his life. Seokjin took a deep breath and exited the room to tend to his first patient.

 

--

 

“Long time no see, doc,” his patient said as he walked in.

Seokjin looked up at him with an obvious grimace. “You again?” he asked, leaning against the door after he closed it.

The man snickered. “Can’t get rid of me,” he quipped and Seokjin held in a snort.

“What did you do this time, Hoseok? Fuck someone so hard that your dick fell off?” he suggested, gesturing over to the scale.

Hoseok kicked his shoes off and stood on the scale with a laugh. “You wish,” he quipped, and Seokjin pushed him off after quickly taking his weight. “I’m just here for my yearly checkup, man.”

Seokjin coughed as Hoseok took his seat back on the examination table. “Why come back if you’re fine?” he asked, taking his stethoscope off of where it hung around his neck and rested upon his wide shoulders. “You know what to do, deep breath,” he ordered as he placed it on his back.

Hoseok breathed in. “Heard it from you to come for a checkup every year.” Seokjin removed it from his back, and he exhaled.

“Ah, now I remember. That was after you pierced your nipples. You freaked out when you saw bleeding so you came crying to me, asking me to fix it,” he replied with a smirk, placing the stethoscope near his heart on his back. “Again.”

“Shut up. That was the past,” he said before he inhaled.

The brunette laughed. “Right, whatever you say.” Hoseok exhaled after he removed the cold metal from his back.

“Enough about me,” Hoseok started with a smile that reached from ear to ear. “Did you get yourself a boyfriend yet? Heard you’re still trying to hit up the guy from room 703 from a little birdie by the front desk.”

Seokjin turned red and slapped him on the shoulder. “Shut up and give me your arm so I can take your blood pressure,” he said, ignoring all the other words he said. Hoseok relented with a chuckle, presenting him his arm.

 

--

 

“I heard screaming this morning,” one of his coworkers noted when Seokjin passed by. “And I saw you come out of the room it came from.”

Seokjin stopped in his tracks and turned to him. “Yes,” he replied. “I’m sorry, did it disturb you?”

The man shook his head. “No, not at all, I just want to know what it was about,” he said, waving his hand in reassurance.

Seokjin narrowed his eyes at him. “Does it concern you—“

“Don’t give me that attitude, hyung,” he interrupted, crossing his arms over his chest. “What was the problem? Is he getting fussy again?”

Seokjin slammed his clipboard onto the counter and placed his hands on his hips. Several people around them flinched, eyes on the scene. “Fussy?” he hissed incredulously. “Fussy? What’s so fussy about resenting twenty-year-long confinement?” He pushed a finger to the man’s chest, anger seething from his teeth. “There is nothing fussy about hating being kept in a tiny room. There is nothing fussy about not being given any freedom to go outside or contact other people. And there is certainly nothing fussy about being stuck there for twenty years of your life. You, sir, have no right to be ignorant of his seclusion, and I will not stand here and just take it! Do you hear me?”

The man nodded nervously, chest in pain from the repeated poking and pushing that Seokjin had inflicted on him. “I-I hear you,” he stuttered, and Seokjin picked up his clipboard again.

“Hasn’t your mother taught you to think twice before you speak?” Seokjin announced, turning on his heel to enter Taehyung’s room. With the furrow of his eyebrows, the man scurried to his desk and made sure that he would not mess with Seokjin ever again.

Seokjin set his clipboard down on the table in between the two white chairs, and he held his face in his hands as he took a seat in the one closest to the bed. His head started to pound, a headache incoming, and he regretted making a scene in the workplace without a second thought. “You’ve got a louder voice than me, that’s for sure,” he heard amongst his thinking. His head immediately shot up to see the owner of the voice.

Taehyung laid there, staring at him with a big smile plastered on his face. “So you heard,” he stated, kicking his feet up onto the bed.

He laughed, running his fingers through the sheets below him. “What do you think woke me up?” he replied, and Seokjin chuckled. 

“My bad,” he apologized, and Taehyung just giggled in response. They fell into silence once again, which was something they have been doing more often, losing themselves in each other’s company. Seokjin cleared his throat, and Taehyung continued staring. “I’m sorry.”

He let out a bit of soft laughter, sitting up and swinging his legs off of the bed. “It’s alright. It’s not like you can do anything about it,” Taehyung kicked his legs back and forth. There was always a smile on Taehyung’s face, and that made Seokjin feel even worse. How could someone so miserable be so positive all the time? His mind boggled at the thought, but he tried to smile back.

“I still feel horrible,” Seokjin grumbled, leaning his elbow on the armrest to hold the right side of his face in his hand.

Taehyung hummed. “Then I suppose you can make it up to me,” he remarked, and Seokjin raised an eyebrow.

“What?” he asked. “What are you talking about?”

He stood from his seat on the bed to stand right in front of Seokjin, staring down at him. His gaze pierced through him, and his breath became labored at the sight of him. Taehyung was still shorter than him and still very weak, but Taehyung had always been handsome. He held his breath as he waited for a response. “I don’t want your pity, hyung,” Taehyung answered. “I just want to feel the sun again. I don’t know how long I have left on this unforgiving Earth. All I want to do is go outside, maybe make some friends, and have the time of my life. You know I never had an actual childhood.”

“Taehyung, I get what you’re saying, but…” he trailed off, looking to the side, “it’s not up to either of u—“

“It’s up to me , doctor,” Taehyung interjected irritably. “I’m old enough to govern myself, and I don’t care what my parents say about it anymore. I love them, but they can’t just control what little time I have left.”

Seokjin bit his lip. “I know, Taehyung, I kno—“

“No, you don’t know, hyung!” Taehyung screamed, startling Seokjin a bit. He gave sigh at the sight of Seokjin’s stiffening body. “I’m sorry for yelling, it’s just that...I know I’m going to die soon. All I want is to feel the sun before I’m gone.”

Seokjin shook his head, standing on his feet. “Don’t say that,” he said, reaching his hands up to grab at his shoulders. “I promised you that I would find you a cure. I’m not stopping, Taehyung.”

The blonde chuckled, placing his hands on Seokjin’s left hand. “Thank you, Jinnie,” he sang, “but I am way past my expiration date. Just, please , hyung, let me go outside one last time! I want to go places with you with me. C’mon, you’re always working, it’s time for you to take some time off.”

The other sighed, releasing Taehyung’s shoulders from his grasp. “I’ll see what I can do,” he murmured, rubbing at his temples soon after.

The latter beamed, jumping into his arms and bringing him into a tight embrace. “Thank you, bestie, thank you!” he exclaimed, and Seokjin held tightly onto him. Taehyung had always considered Seokjin his best and only friend and thought Seokjin always wanted to be more than that, there was no helping it if the feeling was not mutual. Taehyung could feel Seokjin sigh, and he gripped at his lab coat. “Thank you, Seokjin,” he whispered, and Seokjin patted his back.

“I need to go now,” he said into his ear. “Break’s over. Has been for a while now. I gotta go.”

Taehyung nodded. “Alright,” he replied, stepping back from his embrace. “I’ll see you later, doc.”

Seokjin smiled with a nod. “I’ll see you soon, Tae,” he said, turning the doorknob and leaving his room.

 

--

 

“They gave me a day.”

Taehyung blinked. “Just one day?”

Seokjin shrugged. “More or less,” he replied. “They said I can take a day off and some of the day following, but I still have to go to work after that one day off.”

The blonde sighed defeatedly. “It’ll do,” he grumbled, shoving his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. “And me? Did they permit me the same?”

Seokjin nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. “Same date, same times. We’ll both have to be back before noon is totally passed the next day.”

“When? When will it be?”

“Day of your choice. I’d recommend this Friday or something. I just have to do paperwork that Saturday, and there will be barely anyone on this floor except the other patients and some nurses.”

Taehyung eased into a grin. “Great. Friday, then.”

Seokjin hummed. “Decided. I’ll tell them later.”

“Thanks, Jin.”

“Of course.”

As Seokjin turned to leave, he stopped in his tracks and turned back to look at him. “Tae,” he began, and Taehyung looked at him puzzledly, “where did you want to go?”

Taehyung shrugged and let out a laugh. “You ask me that like I know what goes on outside of these walls,” Seokjin felt a ping of guilt wash through him suddenly. “You choose.”

Seokjin inhaled sharply. “If you want to go see the outdoors, then I’d say camping,” he recommended, putting his hands into the pockets of his lab coat.

“Camping?” Taehyung asked. “That sounds kind of cool. I’d like to do that with you.”

Seokjin nodded. “Alright,” he said, placing his hand on the doorknob. “I’ll set it up, but I have to go to a meeting right now.”

Taehyung grinned and gave him a thumbs up. “Ah, I’m so excited!” he said, a blushing painting over his cheeks. Seokjin laughed and waved goodbye to him as he left the room.

 

--

 

He set a couple of knocks on the door with his knuckle as he entered the room. There, Taehyung was smiling down at his phone and typing furiously. Seokjin raised an eyebrow and took his usual seat in the white armchair. “What’re you doing over there?” he questioned, crossing his legs.

Taehyung glanced at him and giggled. “Writing down the things we need for camping! I’ve done a lot of research, and from what I can tell, it will be a lot of fun! At least I hope so...” he trailed off, turning off his phone to fully look at him. “I’m sorry if I’m loud or being too excited.”

“No, no,” Seokjin reassured him. “You have every right to be excited. I’m pretty excited myself, so don’t be ashamed to be yourself.”

The blonde laughed awkwardly, reaching up to his neck to scratch at it sheepishly for a few moments. “T-Thanks, hyung,” Taehyung stuttered, playing with the cracks on his phone’s broken case.

Seokjin nodded. “Always,” he replied, leaning his head back with an exhausted groan. He shut his eyes and kicked back his feet, whispering about work. Taehyung bit his lip as he watched him cross his arms and snuggle into the chair, trying to get somewhat comfortable.

“Jinnie, really, thank you,” Seokjin peeked his right eye open to look at him and hummed. “Hyung, how do you put up with me?”

Seokjin shut his eyes again with a sigh. “What do you mean?” he grumbled, his eyes throbbing with fatigue.

Taehyung took a deep breath. “I’m such a nuisance. I’m standing in between you and your ability to become the best doctor in South Korea. I’m holding you back, and I’ve known that for years. I can’t believe that you can still call me your friend because when I look in the mirror all I see is an annoying parasite,” Taehyung answered, tears forming at the edges of his eyes. He wiped them away, and Seokjin lifted his head up to see him. He brought his legs off of the bed and scooted closer to him.

With his thumb, he wiped his tears away, cupping the side of his cheek with his large hand. “You’re not a nuisance,” he replied, feeling the wetness and heat on his hand from his cheek. Taehyung sniffled, and his heart swelled at the sound. He moved to sit on the bed, and they faced each other as he reached for tissues on the nightstand. “It’s actually the exact opposite, Tae. With you, I feel like the best doctor to ever live. You’re not a parasite, and you’ve done nothing wrong. I like having you next to me all the time, and without you why would I even become a doctor?”

Taehyung tried to laugh and smile at once, but it all jumbled up and he started crying harder. Seokjin pulled him in for a hug and patted his back reassuringly. The latter clung tightly to him, staining his coat with his wet tears again. He muffled apologizes, but Seokjin told him not to worry. “A-And I know you’re tired all the time, and trying to cure me as a side job has been slowly eating away at your youth. At this point, hyung, you should just stop and leave me,” Seokjin embraced him tightly, making Taehyung gasp and sob loudly.

“Don’t ever say that,” he demanded, almost pulling Taehyung onto his lap. Taehyung’s cries were loud, and hearing it made Seokjin’s heart shatter. He hated hearing Taehyung cry; it showed him that Taehyung was always like that in the inside—vulnerable, helpless, and depressed. “I don’t want to hear those words ever again, Taehyung. Do you hear me?” Seokjin felt like he himself was on the verge of tears.

Taehyung nodded, crying himself to sleep in Seokjin’s arms. The elder inhaled sharply, watching as the boy in his arms slept silently with even breaths. He laid him down and stood from his seat on the bed, tucking him in. It was only a few hours after noon, but Taehyung easily tired himself out and got used to sleeping a lot. He carded his hands through his hair, careful not to wake him up before turning to leave the room after setting him up for an undisturbed nap. By the time his hand wa on the doorknob, Seokjin couldn’t bring himself to leave just yet.

The brunette walked back and stared down at the man in front of him. He was beautiful, as always, and Seokjin couldn’t help but smile. He leaned down to place a kiss on his temple and straightened his posture with a satisfied hum afterward. “You’re gonna get out of here soon,” Seokjin whispered, placing his hand on his. He seemed so ethereal, beauty reaching every part of his body. “I’ll make sure of it.” He stood there for another moment before turning down the blinds and walking out.

When he heard the door click closed, Taehyung’s eyes shot wide open and he felt his cheeks heat up intensely. His heart started to beat at a rapid rate, and he couldn’t believe that someone had kissed him for the first time in his almost twenty-five years of life. He placed his hand on his heart and felt it beat repeatedly against his chest. He never felt this way before, and it felt like he had just completed a marathon without running. If it was only a simple kiss on the forehead that drove him this crazy, he didn’t know what anything else could have in store for him. He bit his lip hard. Had Seokjin found out that he liked him? He didn’t know and was unsure if he wanted to know the answer to his own question.

He glanced at the door again, expecting someone to come back in, but no one came. Taking a breath, he started to think that it was best to sleep and forget about it. He looked out the window where the sun was shining brightly, leaking through the blinds. Today’s Wednesday , he said to himself, running his long fingers along the white sheets. Come Friday, I’ll be able to finally feel the sun for real.

He stuck his hand out, his hand becoming warm because of the sun, and smiled to himself before slowly being drifted away into slumber.

 

--

 

“...You’re new.”

The man in front of Taehyung jumped in surprise and turned to him. “New?” he asked, trying to recollect himself. Realization hits him and he shakes his head vehemently. “Oh, no, I’m just here to visit my father.” He gestured to a room a few doors down from Taehyung’s with a smile. “The old man almost twisted his leg down the stairs. Just here to see how he’s doing.”

Taehyung nodded in realization, mouth agape. “Ah, sorry for the misunderstanding. I never see anyone my age on this floor,” he explained, connecting his hands behind his back. “How old are you anyway?”

The man laughed. “It’s alright, and I’m twenty-three,” he replied, and Taehyung hummed, swinging himself back and forth on his heels. “And you? Oh, uh, and my name’s Jungkook, by the way.”

“Name’s Taehyung,” he said back, a wide grin on his face. “I’m almost twenty-five in a matter of months.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Oh, really?” Jungkook asked, and Taehyung nodded enthusiastically. “Then happy early birthday.”

Taehyung giggled. “Aw, thank you!”

Jungkook peered at his outfit. He wore normal attire, comprising of a hoodie and faded jeans, but he could see the patient bracelet on his wrist. “I don’t mean to pry, uh, Taehyung-shi, but are you a patient?” he inquired, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Taehyung nodded slowly, bringing his swaying to a stop. “But you seem...fine? I’m sorry, I am in no place to say this. I don’t mean to offend you if I am.”

“No, it’s alright,” Taehyung reassured him, waving his hands to brush it off. “It’s nothing to worry about. I wasn’t here for long. I’m leaving on Friday, so they just let me wear what I wanted to wear after caving into my obnoxious whining.” He lied straight through his teeth, knowing very well that he was lying, but it seemed to fool Jungkook just enough to make him think he was normal, so he decided that it was the best route to take. What would he have said instead? ‘Oh, I have a chronic heart disease that prevents me from moving around too much and that’s why I am here in seclusion and under the knowledge that I’m going to die sometime soon’? Taehyung didn’t think that would make him laugh as much as he did when he lied, so he strayed away from the truth.

“That’s great,” Jungkook said. “How long have you been here already? Sorry for being pushy, I’m just curious.”

“Oh, no, you’re not pushy at all!” Taehyung exclaimed. He didn’t know how far his lying should go, but he couldn’t stop his mouth from running. “I got here a month ago. I had an accident with….with a ladder! Yeah, my dad asked me to clean the leaves off the roof or something, and I slipped. I got some scars, but besides that, I’m mighty fine.” Jungkook was eating his lies up and it made him feel even guiltier.

“Never trust ladders, man, they’re always up to something!” Jungkook joked, and Taehyung smiled brightly.

As they laughed together, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Seokjin step out of his office. He felt like he was being glared at, a stare that was burning his body up. His body ached to be near Seokjin, but right before Taehyung could wish him goodbye, Jungkook’s phone rang. He watched as the boy fished it out of his pocket and read the text he received. “Argh,” he groaned. “Sorry, that was my mom. I’ve got to go home. Um, I’m glad that you’re getting out soon, hyung. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

Taehyung grinned. “Maybe,” he sang.

Jungkook laughed and shoved his phone back into his pocket. “You’re cute,” he remarked, and Taehyung felt his cheeks heat up uncontrollably. Jungkook snagged out a piece of paper from out of the bookbag he had on his back and scribbled down ten digits. He handed it to Taehyung, a coy smile on his face. “Here’s my number. Text me and maybe we can go out sometime soon. I’ll see you, Taehyung-shi.” Jungkook turned towards the exit with a wave, and Taehyung wished him goodbye.

He started at the numbers, reciting it in his head. If this is what happened when he left his room for the day, then he had been missing out. Almost immediately he got a cute boy’s number, and boy, was he living for once. He squealed silently to himself and shoved the paper into his pocket.   

Taehyung turned back, expecting Seokjin to be somewhere near him, but, to his dismay, he was nowhere in sight. He bit the inside of his cheek nervously, stuffing his hands in his pockets in search of him. Under a minute, his face was almost met with Seokjin’s chest, and he grabbed at the blonde’s shoulders. “Jinni—“

“Pay more attention to where you’re going, please,” he told him, bypassing him after he let go of his shoulders. Taehyung pouted as he watched Seokjin disappear into another room. This was one of the many reasons why he figured staying in the room was the best thing to do, he felt that he was bothering the staff somehow, especially Seokjin. He dragged his feet all the way to his room and slammed the door shut. With a huff, he landed on the bed and felt something fall out of his pocket. When he looked down, the boy’s number was on the ground.

Taehyung glanced at the door and picked it up off of the ground, pulling out his phone as he did. He was about to type the boy’s number in before stopping himself. He thought about Seokjin for a moment. He didn’t know if Seokjin had known, but he had a crush on him since he was young. He thought it might have started the day they shared their promise, but he was never sure. It accumulated over the years and Taehyung found himself helpless in Seokjin’s touch. He glanced back at the piece of paper, setting his phone down to reach the other side of it. Taehyung clenched his fists and was about to rip it into pieces. He stopped and stared down at it, soon deciding that he should keep it for safekeeping. It was the first time he had gotten a number, after all, might as well save the memory. He folded it until it reached the size of a small square and he tossed it into the first drawer of his nightstand.

With a satisfied smile, he threw himself down onto his bed, thinking that it was the best decision. He became drowsy, and his eyes started to droop with fatigue. Talking to someone new takes a lot of work , he told himself as he drifted off to sleep again.

 

--

 

“What was with you the other day?”

Seokjin raised an eyebrow as he tossed his backpack into the trunk of the car. “What?”

“You were acting weird,” he replied.

Seokjin shook his head, turning a bit pink. He didn’t want to admit that he was jealous at all.  “No, it was nothing,” he sighed and shut the trunk. “You ready?”

Taehyung chucked his backpack on, shifting it so it sat comfortably on his shoulders. It was Friday morning and Taehyung was more than excited to get there and finally run around for a bit. He had been forced to only walking around the hospital; if he were running, he’d be chastised by security (and Seokjin) immediately. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied, and Seokjin gave out a laugh as he opened the car door for him.

Seokjin took his seat in the driver’s seat as Taehyung took his own in the passenger’s seat. Seokjin placed the destination in the GPS and Taehyung stared at him as he did. He took his hand away when he was done and raised an eyebrow at Taehyung. “So, like, you put it in and it guides you there?”

Seokjin snorted. “Well, yeah,” he replied. “Did Ms. Lee teach you nothing during your private lessons?”

Taehyung laughed as Seokjin started the car, listening to it as it whirred and hummed loudly. “I remember her!” he exclaimed, leaning back into his seat with a chuckle. “I felt bad for her. I doubt that she wanted to teach such a stubborn piece of shit about stuff that will be trivial in the end. Oh, God, she hated me to death.”

Seokjin chuckled, glancing at the trunk through the rearview mirror. “Think we have everything?” he asked, placing his hands on the steering wheel.

Taehyung sent him a confirming nod. “You prepared it all, of course, we have everything,” he replied, a big smile on his face. In his eyes, Seokjin was one of the perfect men out there, and not a single hair on his body was out of place. He doubted he would be so disoriented as to forget something. Seokjin chuckled, setting a hand on the boy’s thigh.

“I hope you’re right,” he said, and Taehyung turned red, eyes threatening to look down at his hand on his thigh. He gulped nervously.

“Of course I’m right,” he choked out, and Seokjin smiled, taking his hand off and facing the road. “When have I ever been wrong?”

He laughed in agreement. “Let’s go?”

Taehyung’s grin widened. “Let’s go,” he whispered, and with that, Seokjin pulled out of the parking lot.

 

--

 

As Seokjin tended to the tent and Taehyung pulled everything out of the trunk of the car, a car beeping behind them made them jump and gaze curiously. A man hopped out of the car, looking the same age as Taehyung, maybe a little bit older, with pink hair. Taehyung’s eyebrows shot u[ at the unusual color; the only hair colors he had seen were brown, black, and his own dirty blonde. On his back hung a pastel blue bunny backpack on his back and faded blue jeans on his legs. His white shirt had “Illegal” scrawled onto it in a messy, pink font, and somehow it suited him a lot. “Hello!” the man sang as another one popped out of the driver’s seat. “You guys here to camp, too?”

Taehyung, who hasn’t seen another person except for nurses, doctors, and that one guy he met the other day, didn’t know what to say. Speechless, he could only stare at him, and Seokjin smiled, speaking to him as he set the tent down. “Yeah,” he answered, half-jogging to them. “You?”

The man nodded. “Yep, but all spots are taken by old geezers. You guys are the only people that seem decent enough to share their part of the campsite,” he replied, glancing over his shoulder to another person in the car. “...But really, my boyfriend over there really wanted to go camping today; this is his first week off in a while. Do you guys mind sharing? I’ll make it up to you,” he whispered quietly for only them to hear.

Seokjin glanced down to Taehyung, who was practically hiding behind him, and nodded. “We don’t mind at all,” he said, and the man seemed relieved because he sighed and his shoulders relaxed.

“Thank you guys, really,” he looked at the other man and ushered him over. He turned to them and bowed. “I’m Park Jimin,” he said and stuck his hand out for them to shake.

Seokjin gave him a firm handshake, routinely used to shaking hands with fellow doctors, while Taehyung’s greeting was meek and less firm than the elder’s. “Kim Seokjin,” he said and pointed to Taehyung. “And this is Kim Taehyung. He’s a bit nervous about camping, so please be patient with him.”

Taehyung knew that he wasn’t nervous about camping. It was just the company of new people made him sick to his stomach, and he wasn’t sure if it was just the medicine Seokjin told him to take that morning either that made him feel this way..

Jimin nodded and gestured to the man next to him, who smelled of smoke and several showerless days. Seokjin and Taehyung want to gag. “He’s Min Yoongi,” Jimin said, and Yoongi saluted towards them. “Babe, they said they’d let us join them! Isn’t that nice of them?”

Yoongi shoved his hands into his pockets and looked to the side. “Yeah,” he deadpanned, and Jimin shoved him in the side angrily. The silver-haired man cleared his throat and looked them in the eyes. “Thanks.” Jimin gave a satisfied smile to that.

Seokjin nodded, and, as the two newcomers left to get their supplies out of their car, he started to tend to the tent again. Taehyung finished unpacking quickly and went to Jimin, who welcomed him warmly, to help him unpack as well. “So,” Jimin began, trying to spark some conversation, “you’ve never been camping before?”

I’ve never been outside for this long actually. “Nope,” Taehyung said instead.

Jimin hummed. “That’s okay! My boyfriend and I go camping a lot, so I can teach you some of the basics,” Jimin replied, tossing the heavy cooler onto the grass. “Ever made a fire?”

I’ve never even made friends. Taehyung thought to himself, undoing the knots on the rope that secured the tent from falling off the roof of the car. “Uh, no, not really,” he said, tugging the tent off of the roof of the car.

“Oh, it’s easy, really,” he said, shutting the trunk of the car. “I don’t know how to explain it, but maybe my boyfriend can teach you. He’s been camping ever since he was a kid, so he’s way more suitable for teaching, unlike me.”

Taehyung smiled. “Thanks, uh…” he blinked. “Jimin-shi.”

Jimin pouted. “Oh, come on, don’t be so formal. When were you born?”

“December of 1995,” he answered.

Jimin smiled widely. “1995 strong!" he exclaimed, raising his hand to share a high five with Taehyung. "I was born in October, haha! I'm your hyung, then."

Taehyung wasn’t sure if that’s how it works, considering he’s only a few months older, but he nodded anyway. “Great,” he replied, “hyung.” Jimin nodded, and the two met up with Seokjin and Yoongi, who had set up the tents and started to place logs into a small pit in the middle of a couple of log chairs. Taehyung raised an eyebrow, and Seokjin explained to him that they were going to make the fire to cook the meat that Jimin and Yoongi bought.

“Not until later, though,” Yoongi added, stepping out of the tent he had just set up. “It’s better when it’s dark so Jimin can share his his weird, spooky stories.” They all shared a laugh except for Jimin, who delivered a hard, embarrassed slap on Yoongi’s back.

Taehyung nodded. “Is there anything we can do in the meantime?” he asked, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his sweater.

Yoongi motioned over to the tent. “There’s a pretty cool lake near the campsite,” he replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “Figured we could rent out a canoe and chill on the lake.”

“Sounds great,” Seokjin said with a smile. Taehyung glanced up at him, and he was glad to see that he was already enjoying himself.

Yoongi nodded. “Alright,” he said, “let’s go.”

 

--

 

Seokjin watched from the side as his best friend enjoyed the view of the lake. The lake laid silver in the bright light of the afternoon sun and as flat as a mirror. The rippled water ran right into the crevices of the shore, washing the soil from the rocks. Around the edges were the tall trees, which cast shadows across the shoreline, like the soft blanket he hid under as a child, always feeling safer unseen. The only sound was the soft whispering of the trees and Jimin squealing from the cold water from afar. The sun was close to setting, and it reflected upon the lake’s surface, painting it an orange and pink. He smiled to himself and walked across the pier to stand at his side. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Very. I’ve, quite literally, never seen anything like it,” Taehyung answered, a sheepish smile on his face.

Seokjin nodded. “It’s pretty,” he started, “but not as pretty as me, would you agree?”

Taehyung barked out a laugh. “Whatever rows your boat, hyung,” he replied, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans and letting out a satisfied sigh.

Jimin squealed again and the two turned their heads curiously at them. As apparent from his uncontrollable snickering, Yoongi had pushed his boyfriend over the side of the canoe, leaving him to flap his arms in the lake. “How rude,” Taehyung huffed and Seokjin grinned mischievously.

“It’s kind of funny, though,” he said, and Taehyung shook his head disapprovingly.

“Is not.”

“Would you like to try?”

“No, not at al—“

And before Taehyung could finish his sentence, Seokjin pushed him into the shallow part of the lake. Taehyung swam up and stood to his feet, attempting to wipe the water off of his eyes. “Not cool, hyung!” he screamed, splashing the water on him. “Help me out! Ugh, I hate you!”

Seokjin laughed. “You could never hate me,” he said, outstretching his hand for him to grab on.

He smirked. “Wanna bet?” he replied before tugging him into the water with him. Taehyung laughed loudly, and, as Seokjin moved to stand up, he began to splash him with more water, making him groan irritably. “Now we’re both wet, even . You’re welcome.” Seokjin didn’t reply as he splashed water on his face, making him wipe his face again and scrunch up his nose.

Seokjin looked up when Yoongi started to call his name and he swam to shore to see what he wanted. As Taehyung watched him, he felt someone row the canoe to him, and he looked up at the rower.

“Hey there, Taehyung-ah,” Jimin greeted.

Taehyung smiled. “Hello, hyung,” he said back.

Jimin motioned to the canoe. “Want to ride with me?” he offered. Taehyung nodded almost immediately.

“Of course.” He climbed in, careful not to tip it over. The two floated across the lake for a while, every once in a while dipping their hand in the water and watching the water ripple under their touch. Taehyung started to hum a song as he admired the view from the lake, which was was slowly getting darker and darker by the second. He could already see some stars and the moon in the sky.

Jimin tapped gently on the side of the canoe, getting Taehyung’s attention almost immediately. “So, Tae, how long have you been with your boyfriend?” he asked, swaying back and forth. Taehyung’s eyes widened, and Jimin cocked his head to the side puzzledly.

“Boyfriend?” he questioned, an eyebrow raised.

Jimin blinked. “Seokjin is your boyfriend, right?” he inquired, surprised by Taehyung’s response.

Taehyung shook his head vehemently. “Oh, God, no! Seokjin’s my best friend, that’s all!” Taehyung exclaimed, but bit his lip soon after, trying to keep his voice down a bit so Seokjin couldn’t hear their conversation.

“Really? I thought you were together because you two looked so lovey-dovey by the pier and the campsite. Sorry I just assumed that you were dating! I swear I can see love in Seokjin’s eyes every time he looks at you, though! Sorry,” he spewed and Taehyung shook his head again, telling him it was fine and that he shouldn’t worry about it. Taehyung directed his eyes towards the floor of the canoe, and Jimin peered curiously at him, soon noticing his pink tinted cheeks. “Don’t tell me you’re blushing!” he said, and Taehyung’s eyes widened again.

He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “I am not!” he screamed, eyes not leaving the bottom of the canoe.

“You’re not dating, but you like him, don’t you?” He smirked, slapping him on the shoulder playfully.

“Nope, never.”

“Oh, admit it. I don’t have to be your extremely close friend to know that you like him.”

“I don’t!”

“You do!”

“Fine, I d—”

“Taehyung-ah!”

He suddenly darted his head back to the shore, eyes wide with surprise. “Come back to shore!” Seokjin announced, “We're going back to the campsite to cook dinner!”

Jimin watched as Taehyung sent him a nod, cheeks turning redder. He snickered and Taehyung whipped his head back at him after hearing the sound. “What is it?” he snapped and Jimin’s snicker rose to laughter.

“You are so whipped!” he screamed, throwing his head back as he chuckled. Taehyung ran his hand through the water and flicked the droplets into his face, rolling his eyes as he did so. “You guys are so cute. It's adorable.”

Taehyung didn't reply as he reached for the oars and started to row back to shore. The four of them made their way back to the campsite and Jimin and raised an eyebrow at Taehyung’s heavy breathing. He was about to ask him about it before Seokjin intervened, asking Jimin to help them prepare the meat. Taehyung sent a thankful glance towards him, but Seokjin only saluted.

Yoongi took logs and set them around the fire pit as Jimin and Seokjin cooked the meat. Taehyung walked around, swinging around a stick and poking at leaves. Yoongi looked at him and smiled gently. “Taehyung, right?” he called out. Startled, the boy jumped and turned to Yoongi, immediately grinning at him with a nod. “Do me a favor and go get some wood and sticks for the fire? We’ll need it for the marshmallows and to keep warm.”

Hesitant, Taehyung glanced to where Seokjin and Jimin were standing. “I don't know if I can go alone,” he said, fumbling with the stick in his hands.

Yoongi scratched the back of his neck. “I mean, I’d go if I could, but I’m pretty busy and I don't want to leave my boyfriend's si—” he ended his own sentence, and a smirk appeared on his lips. “Oh, I get it. You want Seokjin to go with you.”

Taehyung turned red, his eyes widening in surprise. “T-That’s not what I mea—”

“Seokjin-hyung!” Yoongi screamed, turning to him. Seokjin looked up at him and raised a curious eyebrow. “Can you and Taehyung gather some wood for the fire? It's already dark as hell, I want to get it done before it becomes pitch black.”

Seokjin looked at Jimin. “I don't want to leave all the work to Jimin, though.” Jimin shook his head reassuringly.

“It's okay, hyung, I can take care of it,” Jimin said with a smile and Yoongi nodded.

Seokjin shrugged. “If you say so. If anything happens, shout for me,” he said, reaching down for his backpack.

“Will do, sir,” Jimin joked, flipping over a piece of meat. 

They waved goodbye to the others, and Taehyung smiled as they made their way down the trail into the forest. He pointed out how beautiful the trees looked as the sun settled down, and Seokjin was glad to see that he was enjoying himself. The wind blew through the air, and the frail boy shivered quietly, but when Seokjin offered his coat, Taehyung shook his head and said the air was refreshing, that he liked the feeling of it against his skin. The elder nodded and told him if he was ever feeling cold that he should tell him immediately. Taehyung, with a big smile on his face, nodded and began to prance around the side of the stream, receiving a moment or two of chastising from Seokjin.

It was getting dark and Seokjin’s arms ached from holding pounds of wood, face pointed at the ground to focus on his footsteps, trailing behind Taehyung. He was suddenly interrupted when Taehyung stopped in his tracks, sending Seokjin back a step. Before that he could yell at him, he could barely see what was wrong before Taehyung whispered:

“Fireflies.”

Seokjin’s eyebrows raised at the sight of the small insects dancing around the trees, flashing their impressive lights and lighting the way. Taehyung giggled in excitement and astonishment. “Oh, God, it's beautiful! I’ve never seen fireflies in real life before!” He tried to run to them, but Seokjin held him back, saying that he might scare them away. Taehyung pouted and gave him a childish nod.

Seokjin tossing the wood onto a pile of dead leaves to muffle the noise, and, as he tugged his backpack off his shoulders, Taehyung watched in the wonder of what he could be doing. He snatched something out of his backpack, looking up at Taehyung with a smile. “I figured we would see fireflies out here, so I came prepared. Care to catch some?” he asked, presenting him a mason jar with small holes poked into the lid.

Taehyung laughed, his box smile becoming brighter than ever before. “Of course,” he said, taking the mason jar out of his hands. Seokjin hummed happily as he skipped around, trapping the small creatures in the jar. He looked so ethereal like that—carelessly running around like he had no problem in the world. Seokjin’s cheeks tinted red, and he could see Taehyung catching more bugs breathlessly.

“Tae!” Seokjin screamed, making him jump. “Take a break, please. Or at least take it down a notch.”

He sent him a reassuring smile, catching one more firefly before making his way back to his side. “The others might get worried. Let's head back.” Seokjin agreed, collecting the wood as the two made their way back to the campsite. He mentally praised himself for bringing the mason jar, because if he had not, he would never have seen the sight of Taehyung humming and cooing at the bright insects.

When they came back, Jimin was already done cooking dinner and everything was set up perfectly. All that was left was the fire—and that's what Seokjin was there for, immediately throwing the wood into the pit. Yoongi thanked them both and when Taehyung saw Jimin, he excitedly ran to his side to show him his collection of bugs. Jimin looked at it with a smile. “It's pretty,” he said, and Taehyung agreed without hesitation. “I heard from my friend that the flickering light is actually their heartbeat. Isn't that cool?”

He glanced down at the jar, suddenly disheartened at the fact. “Yeah,” he breathed, “cool.” Jimin nodded and watched as his boyfriend tended to the fire, noting that they would be eating soon. Taehyung gave him a smile, eyes still focused on the fireflies in the mason jar.

Seokjin leaped to his side while Yoongi took a seat next to Jimin, placing a table full of meat next to them to eat. The four began to eat, laughing once in a while when someone had meat stuck in their teeth. Seokjin cracked some jokes, but, thanks to Jimin, he contained Yoongi from slapping him across the face. Jimin took out the marshmallows when the fire was at its hottest, so they heated up pretty easily. At one point, Yoongi remarked about Jimin’s odd need for sweets, and, rightfully shocked and betrayed, Jimin tossed a handful of marshmallows at his face, causing all of them to erupt in laughter. What was supposed to be a nice hang out by the fire turned out to be a full-blown food fight that they knew they would have to clean up before bears ran in and mauled them to death.

Seokjin glanced at Taehyung, who was slowly becoming drowsy and tired. He smiled to himself, taking Taehyung’s head so it rested on his shoulder. His eyes fell, and he hummed in gratitude. Jimin noticed his smile and he smirked. Seokjin must be in love with him, too, he thought, leaning to the side to slip his fingers in between Yoongi’s. “That reminds me, hyung, what time did Tae sleep last night? He looked so tired today,” he wondered, letting a light laugh escape his lips.

Seokjin laughed. “Oh, I don't know. He's addicted to his games, aren't you, Taehy-?”

“I don't want to lie to them anymore,” Taehyung blurted out. “You can tell them, hyung.” And with his last words finished, he was asleep, chest falling and rising with each breath. He sighed. “Actually, Taehyung has...some problems,” he began, placing his hand on the blonde’s thigh. Jimin and Yoongi raised an eyebrow. “Ever since he was very young, Taehyung had a chronic heart disease that prevented him from doing any physical activity. Basically, his heart speeds up too fast for his body to keep up; activity for only a short amount of time is deadly for him.”

Jimin bit his lip nervously. “Is that why he was so out of breath when we walked back from the lake? The trail was short, though.”

Seokjin nodded. “Yes. Even walking from there,” he gestured to the tent he set up, “to here,” he pointed to the end of the log he was sitting on, estimating only a few feet, “will cause him to pass out.”

“How long have you known?” Yoongi asked. “Did he keep it a secret from you and his other friends?”

Seokjin looked down. “I'm his first and only friend,” he answered truthfully. “I've known him since I was six—even then he had the disease. When we were younger, I promised that I would cure him.”

Yoongi quirked an eyebrow. “How?”

“Well,” Seokjin started with a smile, “I'm his doctor.”

Jimin started to sob. Yoongi reached behind him to comfort him, rubbing circles on his back. “That's so cute but so sad!” he exclaimed.

“He's happy to have met you guys, you know,” he mentioned, and they looked at him curiously. “Taehyung hasn't been outside for months because his parents and the doctors are too afraid that he'll overwork himself.”

“Really?” Seokjin nodded, and Jimin looked at his shoes. “How long has been living like this?”

Seokjin’s grip on his thigh tightened. “Taehyung is turning twenty-five soon,” he answered, and they nodded, and Seokjin’s voice fell. “But, honestly, the other doctors and I don't know how much time he has left.”

Those last few words made Jimin cry even harder and Seokjin jumped in surprise. Yoongi ran his hands through his hair, trying to calm him down. Taehyung grumbled in uneasiness, and Seokjin moved to brush his bangs out of his eyes. By the time Jimin calmed down, they all decided to get some rest for the night. Seokjin carried Taehyung bridal style all the way to the tent, and, as he was about to turn and wish goodnight to the others, Jimin shoved the mason jar of fireflies to his chest. “Take care of these,” he demanded. With a laugh, he promised, thanked them, and said goodnight. He set Taehyung down on the soft blankets and wrapped him up snuggly in the sheets.

The night was windy, slightly tilting the tent a bit every time the wind swam through the air. The tent shook slightly and blearily Taehyung opened his eyes, startling himself at the sight of his best friend’s face. He eased into a small grin, and, from the corner of his eye, he saw a bit of light. He turned to see the jar of fireflies, picking it up with one hand to examine it. He was glad to see that they were all still alive and well. Taehyung crawled to the front of the tent and unzipped it, gazing in astonishment at the sea of stars above him. He had never seen something that beautiful, and that said a lot for a boy who was stuck in a hospital room his whole life. Taehyung, who was too mesmerized to hear movement, jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “What are you doing awake, Tae?” he asked, leaning forward to lay his chin on his shoulder.

Taehyung hummed. “I've never really seen the stars,” he explained, running his hands over the barely visible grass. “And I think this is the closest I’ve gotten to them.” Seokjin didn’t reply after that, and together they found themselves staring up at the sky together in comfortable silence. It was peaceful like this, exchanging glances and light giggles every time they made eye contact.

Taehyung began counting the stars, no matter how many times people have told him it was impossible, he thought it was possible even for just these moments. He almost reached to one hundred fifty when Seokjin suddenly stated:

“I love you, Taehyung.”

Not knowing how to respond, he looked at the man next to him and tried to laugh. “I know you love me, Jinnie,” he said, a smile tugging at his lips. “We’re best friends after all.”

Seokjin shook his head, taking his chin off of his shoulder and placing his hand on his. “No, Taehyung,” he replied. Taehyung’s eyes shot down to their interlocked hands. “I‘m in love with you.”

He giggled nervously, taking his hand away. “W-What are you saying now? You always play jokes on me,” he choked out, a blush painting his cheeks a crimson color. He tried to say something else but was cut off when Seokjin’s soft lips connected with his own. Like a new, fresh duvet on a bed, his lips were smooth and velvety—perfectly colliding with Taehyung’s red lips. He didn’t know what to do either than push forward and kiss him back messily. Seokjin let out a hum of amusement at that.

Seokjin pulled away after a moment, knocking his temple against Taehyung’s, staring into his starry eyes. He linked their fingers back together and Taehyung didn’t dare to look away from his piercing gaze. “I’m serious,” he said, his feelings dripping from his expression. “I love you, Kim Taehyung.”

Taehyung gulped, resorting to nothing but wrapping his arms around his neck and pulling him into another kiss. He felt Seokjin giggle against his lips and it sent his heart racing. They sat there for a minute with Taehyung not wanting to part from the moment he was waiting for his whole life. He wasn’t going to lose this moment for the world—he was going to make sure of that. Seokjin placed his hands on the small of his back and, slowly, he set him back down on the mat.

With stars in his eyes and a hazy gaze, Taehyung looked up at Seokjin with complete desire. His touches made him quiver and his stare made him crumble into nothingness. Nothing would top this moment, he thought, pulling Seokjin down again to share another kiss. “I love you, Kim Seokjin,” he whispered in his ear. “I’ve loved you for so long...so many years. God...oh, so many years. You made me feel something in me that I never felt before. You showed me how to love when no one else did, and you’re the reason why I lay under you right now.” Seokjin didn’t know what to say, but giving Taehyung control to kiss him again seemed to make up for it.

“I love you,” Seokjin said. Sincere, raw, passionate. “I love you.”

“Yeah,” Taehyung replied. His eyes drooped down with fatigue but his heart was beating all the same against the elder’s chest. “I love you so much.”

Seokjin buried his face in the crook of Taehyung’s neck. “Stay with me forever,” he whispered.

He let out a defeated laugh. “As long as forever keeps me,” Taehyung said back, running his hands through his hair. He could hear the elder crying softly on top of him from that last comment. “I will stay with you forever, Seokjin.”

“You better,” he choked out.

“Of course,” he whispered, and, as he finished his last remark, his eyes were covered in darkness, and he found himself falling asleep again.

 

--

 

When morning came, Seokjin and Taehyung found that the other two were already up, cooking breakfast near the fire pit. Taehyung waved happily at them, and Seokjin caught him from tripping over some branches to greet Jimin. The pink haired boy tried not to treat him any differently than he did a couple hours ago, but when he had just found that Taehyung was ill, it was a bit of a challenge. He couldn’t help the wave of pity he felt whenever he saw Taehyung around. They talked and talked about the most trivial things, and, when they all finished breakfast, Jimin and Taehyung exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. With one last hug and a bid of farewell, Jimin and Yoongi left the campsite for their next journey.

After cleaning their own mess, Taehyung and Seokjin made their way back to the hospital. Like Seokjin had said, the fifth floor was empty for the day, closed off to visitors, letting Taehyung hang out in Seokjin’s office. He sighed as he watched Seokjin complete his work. He already exhausted conversation with Jimin and his phone, his one way of staying awake, was quickly running out of battery. “Jinnie,” Taehyung sang, “I’m bored.”

Seokjin glanced at him. “Find something to do, Tae.”

Taehyung pouted. “There’s nothing to do.”

“Want to help me with my wor—“

“Hell no.”

Seokjin laughed loudly, eyes glancing at the clock on the wall. It was noon and he could feel himself getting hungry. “Are you hungry?” he asked.

Taehyung looked down at his stomach. “I guess, yeah,” his stomach grumbled and Seokjin tried to contain his laughter. “Shut up! I’m hungry, okay?”

The brunette offered to take a trip to the cafeteria for some lunch, and Taehyung, who had not been there in years, immediately agreed. They went down to the second floor and took an immediate right to the cafeteria. It was bigger than he remembered, and it was seemingly painted another color over the years. It was no longer a dull grey, but a vibrant pink and orange instead. He smiled as Seokjin led him in, letting him pick anything that he wanted. He settled for something that he had not had in a while: a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake. Seokjin just settled for a salad, glancing disgustedly at Taehyung’s choices.

There was only a few people in the seating area, so they took a seat by the windows. Taehyung peered down amusedly, looking down at the tiny people and cars. They ate their food, once in a while glancing at each other and turning red from eye contact. Taehyung couldn’t get his mind wrapped around the fact that they had kissed the night prior—and several times, too. He blinked rapidly to get his mind off it, but it was no use.

Seokjin noticed his odd behavior and sighed. “Taehyung,” Seokjin began, and Taehyung gulped nervously, “are you, by any chance, thinking about last night?”

“No,” he replied way too quickly.

“Really?”

“Y-Yeah, not at all. In fact, what even happened? Did something happen? I was half-asleep.”

“So you don’t remember me saying that I loved you?” he said, feigning hurt, and Taehyung blushed.

He hid his face in his hands, trying to keep Seokjin from seeing his flushed face. “Oh, shut it, people might hear,” he hissed. “I remember, alright.”

Seokjin shook his head. “We’re the only people here right now,” he replied, and he placed his hand on Taehyung’s shoulder. “I love you, Tae.”

“Oh, God, Jinnie, please,” he begged, his heart rate picking up. “Do you want me to die right here, right now?”

“Do you love me, Tae?”

“Argh, Jin, why do I—” he screwed his eyes shut, “of course I love you! I love you so much!”

Seokjin gave a satisfied smile. “Then would you be my boyfriend?” he inquired.

Taehyung’s eyes widened, trying to focus on his heartbeats. “Boyfriend? Wh-What do you mean by your boyfriend?”

“You know what I mean,” he reached his hand up to wrap his fingers around his wrist. “Let me see your face—“

Taehyung shook his head. “No.”

“Please.”

“No!”

“I want to kiss you, Tae.”

“I want you to kiss me, Jin.”

“Then please let me see you.”

“I can’t,” Taehyung whispered, looking down at the ground. “I’m already too attached. If you kiss me right now, I won’t want to let you go.”

“Who said I didn’t want that?” Seokjin chuckled, leaning forward and taking Taehyung’s hands off of his face. He squealed and turned redder before Seokjin linked their lips, and Taehyung melted underneath his touch. They stayed like that for only a moment, but Taehyung wished it was a never-ending eternity. Seokjin leaned his forehead on Taehyung’s, silently staring at each other for a minute before he broke the wordless conversation with their eyes. “I want you to be my boyfriend.”

He blinked. “I want to be your boyfriend,” Taehyung replied immediately.

“Please be.”

“Okay.”

Taehyung kissed him on the lips chastely, cupping his face in his hands.  

“I love you.”

“I know, hyung, you remind me so much, that I can’t forget.”

Seokjin laughed and glanced at their empty plates. “We should head back,” he said, and Taehyung nodded, standing to his feet. Seokjin threw their trash away, and, as they made their way to the elevator, Seokjin slipped his hand into Taehyung’s happily. They blushed, and Taehyung couldn’t help but feel butterflies in the pit of his stomach.

 

--

 

Seokjin asked Taehyung if he wanted to go to his house the next day, and Taehyung agreed without hesitation. It had been years since he last stepped foot in his house, but Seokjin kept him away because he said it was way too dirty. It wasn’t dirty at all, and Taehyung knew he had a lot of paperwork there that he didn’t want to be messed up.

They ate dinner with gusto, ordered from Taehyung’s favorite restaurant, and Seokjin proposed to watch a movie in his bedroom. Taehyung chose the movie; it was a sweet one with a predictable ending, but Seokjin allowed him to do anything he wanted for the night. Taehyung’s eye lit up at the moment he heard a pet name from the television and Seokjin started to smirk. “You’re into pet names?” he asked, extending an arm around him and pulling him closer.

Taehyung laid his head on his chest. “No,” he whispered.

“Are you sure,” he started, leaning in to kiss him on the forehead, “baby?”

Taehyung turned red, slapping the other’s chest playfully. “S-Stop, I’m trying to watch the movie,” he grumbled, burying his face in his chest.

Seokjin laughed. “Sorry, sunshine,” he teased, making Taehyung mutter something nonsensical under his breath. “What did you say, babe? I didn’t catch that, cutie.”

“I said you’re embarrassing me,” Taehyung mumbled, hiding his face in his hands again, something Seokjin found adorable. He pulled his hands away from his face and placed a sloppy kiss on his cheeks, making Taehyung giggle and redden. They kissed for a moment, hands cupped around Seokjin’s cheeks and Seokjin’s hands landed on Taehyung’s waist. He pulled away with a half-lidded gaze, and Taehyung could feel his heart race again.

“You’re getting tired,” Seokjin remarked, feeling the thumping of Taehyung’s chest against his own.

He laughed. “You’re making me tired,” he replied, and Seokjin hummed, collapsing back onto the bed next to him. “Do we have to go back to the hospital?”

“Tomorrow.”

“I want to stay here forever.”

“I want you to stay here forever, too.”

Taehyung bit his lip. “I know I can’t, though,” he sighed. Seokjin didn’t reply, couldn’t , for not a single word could come out. 

Taehyung slowly fell asleep in his arms a few minutes after that. He reached for the lamp and switched it off. Seokjin wrapped his arms around his frail body and held as tightly as he could to his boyfriend, not wanting to let go at all. 

It was only a matter of time that he’ll lose that moment forever, and he was going to make the most of it.

 

--

 

“Dr. Kim,” Seokjin heard a voice from behind him. He forced a rehearsed smile, but when he turned around he saw his father, standing there with his arms crossed and a stern expression on his face, his eyebrows shot up.

Seokjin jumped. “Father! Oh, you. You know you’re the real Dr. Kim!” he exclaimed, eyes brightening for a moment. His father was recently moved to a different floor, so they never crossed paths. It was surreal to have him stand in front of him. His father’s face stayed unchanging, even with Seokjin’s bright greeting. His face fell slightly. “What brings you here?“

“We need to talk,” his father said, ignoring his words entirely. His father was never so serious, always having a smile on his face, but from what he could deduce, something was wrong. His body started trembling, but he nodded and followed his father out to the hallway on the fifth floor, far away from the patients. 

His father stared at the floor for a moment before taking a breath and saying “he doesn’t have much time left.”

Seokjin blinked. “He...what?”

“Seokjin, you must know that all hearts, eventually, will grow old and cannot take much more, especially if nothing is done with it. We’ve conducted some research using the data on his EKG, and, son, his heart is growing old at such a fast pace that he could die of a natural cause anytime soon,” he explained, and they stood in silence before Seokjin shook his head, not wanting to hear any of this. “There’s nothing we can do about this. His condition is so incredibly rare that we could only find this out now. I’m sorry, Seokjin, but the damage is already done.”

“...No.”

“Yes, Seokjin. I’m sorry.”

“No, Father, you don’t understand. I-I said I would cure him. I promised .”

“Son, you’re smart enough to know that there’s no saving him at this point.”

“Father. I’m going to find a cure.”

“You can’t.”

A tear fell down his face. “He...He can’t die just like that! Dad, I love him. I love him more than anything in this world and I’ll be damned if I can’t save him.”

His father nodded solemnly. “I know you love him, son,” he sighed, eyes on the ground, “but there’s no helping it.”

Seokjin broke down crying, unable to fathom the words his father said to him. He had to deny this reality — Taehyung was finally happy, Taehyung was finally his . “I can do it,” he whimpered.

His father grabbed his shoulders to shake him out of it. “I’m saying this because I care for you: you cannot save him!” His words made Seokjin cry harder, hiding his face in his hands and sobbing into them. “You can try, but with the little time he has left, you won’t be able to get it to him. I’ve been trying for years. You’ve been trying for years.”

Seokjin bit his lip, wiping away his tears with the back of his hands. “How much time does he have left?” he choked out, trying to keep his tears from falling. He looked unsightly, tears and snot running down his face, but he couldn’t care less.

His father sighed, shrugging his shoulders a bit. “There’s no telling. A month? A week? Hell, maybe even a day.”

Seokjin wiped his tears away. “Please don’t tell Taeh—“

“He already knows,” his father interjected, making Seokjin’s eyes widen.

“How could you ?”

“He already knew himself that he was going to die. When I told him, he didn’t bat an eye.”

Seokjin inhaled sharply, trying to focus his breath. “I just—I need to think about this.”

“Seokjin,” his father said, “listen to me. You gave the world to that boy, it’s about time you give him peace.”

He could only blink in response, turning back to the double doors in silence. Gazes followed behind him as he abandoned his father at the doors, but he didn’t care. His head was screaming Taehyung, Taehyung, my love, Taehyung and before he knew it, his hand was on Taehyung’s doorknob, and he peered into Taehyung’s room. Taehyung was sitting there, back facing towards the door, his knees hugged to his chest. Seokjin could tell that he was upset, and he took a step in. “Taehy—”

“They’re dying, too,” he interjected. Seokjin went silent. Taehyung showed him the mason jar of fireflies in his hands, his back still facing him. “The fireflies are dying. I had almost seven. There’s only three left now. I tried my best to keep them all alive. But, like me, they disappoint.” His voice was hoarse, sounding like he had cried for hours on end, and it shattered Seokjin’s heart.

“They’re bugs. Their death is inevitable.”

Taehyung finally looked at him, eyes void of emotions. “Just like mine?”

God, Seokjin felt like crying again. “You’re not dyin—“

“You can stop lying, Seokjin-hyung,” Taehyung hissed, slamming the mason jar onto the nightstand. “I’ve been suspicious for a while now, and when you told Jimin and Yoongi at the camp, I was sure of it. I am dying.”

“...You were awake?”

“Of course I was awake,” he said, pressing his temple against his knees. “I know I’m dying. I-I don’t want to die. I don’t want to leave you. But...your dad told me about all the tests you would run at home after work, and I can’t keep living with a good conscience after hearing that. You have to stop trying so hard for me. I’m a lost cause, hyung, and trying hard for me is just a waste of time.”

Seokjin stomped over and grabbed his shoulders, forcing the boy to look at him. A tear fell down his face, and Seokjin sat across from him on the bed. “Taehyung, I’m not going to let you give up on me.”

“Y-You have to.”

“Never in a million years.”

Jinnie …”

“I love you, Taehyung, and I’m not going to let you leave me that easily.” He moved his hands to cup his face and Taehyung sniffled.

“You’re the light of my life, Kim Seokjin.”

“And you’re the only one for me, Kim Taehyung.”

He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing. “Kiss me,” he whispered, and Seokjin quickly granted his wish, slotting their lips together like perfect pieces of a puzzle. He felt Taehyung wrap his arms around his neck, bringing him closer. Before they continue, Seokjin heard someone call him and they stopped immediately. Taehyung glanced to the side and placed his hand on Seokjin’s thigh. “I’ll see you later. You still have a job to do, doc.” He sighed with a nod. Seokjin placed one more kiss on his lips before regretfully leaving Taehyung alone in his dull room.

He watched him leave, and his heart ached a bit at the sight of him leaving. He didn't want him to go, and he already missed him in his arms. Taehyung glanced at his nightstand, and, as if something was drawing him closer to it, he opened it. In it, he saw his toy trucks and chuckled. He examined it, reminiscing for a moment before a piece of white paper fell to the ground. With an eyebrow raised, he picked it up. A phone number was scrawled onto the paper. It was almost unreadable, and he remembered the man that gave it to him. With a laugh, he took it with both hands and ripped it to shreds, the remains falling to his feet.

After all, he would no longer need it if Seokjin was by his side. 

He shoved the paper back into the nightstand and closed it tightly. The back of his eyes burned with fatigue and he fell asleep to the thought of Seokjin, the man that won his heart.

 

--

 

“Jin.”

“Yes, Tae?”

“Where the hell are you taking me?”

He heard Seokjin chuckle and gravel crinkle underneath their feet. “Take off the blindfold,” he told him, and he slipped the fabric off of his eyes. His jaw dropped at the sight: a sunset painted red, yellow, and orange. Seokjin drove him from the hospital to a hotel near the brightest sunset he had ever seen. The sun was sinking behind the rooftops, as its color faded from orange to crimson red, the clouds blended with the color of the bright sun. The world was his own for that moment, and he felt Seokjin slip his hand in his own. They stared into the view, astonishment visible in their eyes.

“I love you, Tae,” Seokjin suddenly blurted out, making him jump a bit.

“I love you, too,” he replied, smiling from ear to ear, giving him the smile that Seokjin fell in love with.

With a grin, Seokjin separated their hands and looked at him. ”Enough to marry me?” he inquired.

Taehyung blinked for a moment, trying to process what he said in his brain. “Are you proposing?” he half-asked half-laughed, eyes not leaving the sight in front of them.

In the corner of his eye, he saw Seokjin drop to one knee. “Maybe I am,” he sang, and his eyes widened to the size of saucers. He watched as Seokjin pulled a velvet ring box from his pocket and opened it up, revealing a small, beautiful ring from inside of it. He covered his mouth in shock and tears formed at the edges of his eyes. “This may be too late, but will you marry me, Kim Taehyung?”

Taehyung nodded immediately, tears spilling from his eyes. “Yes, I will marry you, Kim Seokjin!” he screamed, blushing furiously. Seokjin laughed loudly and stood to his feet, slipping the ring onto his ring finger. He examined it for a few moments and giggled when Seokjin laid his hands on his waist. They kissed and Taehyung wished that he could live like this forever.

Taehyung looked into his eyes, loving the gaze they sent each other. His heart throbbed, head falling against Seokjin’s chest. “Jinnie, when I’m gone, do you promise that you’ll let me go?”

Seokjin shook his head. “I could never.”

“You have to.”

“I don’t want to. I told you that you’re the only one for me and I meant it.”

Taehyung cupped his face in his hands. “I want you to find someone that will treat you right. Someone that won’t make you cry or make you sad. Someone who loves you as much as I do. Can you do that for me?” They both started to cry, staining their clothes with their salty tears.

“Alright, anything for you, baby,” he choked through tears, gripping at the fabric of Taehyung's shirt tightly.

The boy smiled. “And if they don’t treat you right, I’ll haunt them.”

He laughed. “You better.”

Taehyung laughed and kissed him on the lips again. They stood there for a moment, and Seokjin sighed. “We should head back,” Seokjin said, hugging him tightly, not wanting to let this moment slip through his fingers.

Taehyung looked back at the sunset. “Can we stay like this for just a few more minutes?” he asked, and Seokjin nodded.

“Of course,” he replied, and Taehyung hid his face in the crook of Seokjin’s neck, swaying slowly as they both stared at the beautiful sunset.

 

--

 

At around three in the morning, when Seokjin was too busy trying to find a cure for his fiance, his work phone rang loudly. Irritated by the loud noise, he slammed his clipboard down and walked towards the phone on the counter. Under the assumption it was someone calling to be filled in for a day, he picked up and muttered a sour response, but he heard a distressed cry from the other side, and his eyebrows furrowed. “Hello?” he asked worriedly, and there was more crying.

“Doctor,” a familiar voice said. It was from one of the nurses at the front desk. Seokjin’s hands started shaking with fear.

“Yes?”

“Fifteen minutes ago, Taehyung died of a heart attack during his sleep.”

Seokjin’s eyes widened, his body startling. “Y-You’re joking.”

“I could never, doctor,” she whispered. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have contacted you sooner. There was so much havoc that—”

“Is it...really too late?”

“Doctor, I’m so sorry,” she said instead, crying loudly. He threw everything down, tears already running down his face. He left his house in his slippers, not caring for a single second about anything in the world than Taehyung. He sped to the hospital, most likely breaking half of the country’s laws, but his head was yelling Taehyung. Taehyung, my love. Taehyung again. He ran inside, flashing his I.D. to anyone who tried to stop him before running to the fifth floor. When he arrived, all the nurses looked up at him and shook their heads sadly.

He ran towards the door before a nurse latched herself onto him, stopping him. “You can’t go on like this, doctor,” a nurse said, trying to keep him away from the third room. “There’s nothing in there for you anymore.”

He pushed her to the side angrily. “I have to see for myself!” he screamed, opening the door to see a pale, soulless body on the bed. The man he loved, the man he proposed to, laid there, dead and expressionless. He cried harder, rushing to the bed and mourning at his side. He grabbed his hand and tried to wish it was all a joke, that this wasn’t the reality he was living. 

Seokjin gripped the sheets, crying loudly and miserably. The nurses watched him pitifully, whispering about how much they loved each other. He lifted his head to see Taehyung’s face again before a bright light started to flicker beside him. In the clouded mason jar was the last firefly, giving its last spurts of light before stopping, like putting out a cigarette bud after moments of huffing and puffing. 

His eyes widened at the sight before he continued to cry at his side, clutching the mason jar to his chest until security eventually dragged him out of the room. He couldn’t hear anything. He couldn’t see, and he couldn’t feel anything but disarray and sorrow.

He glanced down at the mason jar, protecting it like his life depended on it. When he went home, he sat and stared at the wall wordlessly, unable to wipe his failure out of his mind. He felt a heavy weight on his shoulders, and the brunette cried himself to sleep that night.

 

--

 

Seokjin watched from afar as Taehyung’s family members poured out of the church, some of them crying, some of them shaking their head dejectedly. He had white flowers in one hand and a mason jar in the other, adorning a white suit on his body. Taehyung liked white: It’s bright! It’s nice! he would say. Seokjin thought it was fitting. 

The last person to come out was his father, the lead doctor of Taehyung’s case. They made eye contact and he gestured towards the church, saying something like it was all his.

He nodded and he ran up the steps, opening the tall chapel doors and walking in. There was a white coffin in front of the church, pictures of him when he was a child everywhere, and roses adorned the bottom. Seokjin walked over and looked down at his love’s lifeless body, trying not to cry his eyes out like he had done several nights before the funeral. He placed the bouquet on the floor beneath him and took a breath. “Hello, my love,” he whispered, his heart throbbing and tears threatening to fall down his face. He stared at the expressionless man in the coffin underneath him and a tear ran down the side of his cheek. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t help you. I-I spent six years trying to find a cure, but I was too late. I failed you. I broke our promise. It was the first thing I promised you and…God, I never meant for this to happen.”

As expected, there was no response, and he cried harder. “Baby, I love you so much. I tried to give you my whole world, but nothing worked. Nothing ever worked. I said I’d find a cure, but you’re…you’re...God, I can’t even say it. Taehyung, baby, if you’re listening to me from heaven right now, I miss you. I want you next to me. I want to see you smile again.”

After moments of staring, Seokjin calmed himself down, wiping his tears away before chuckling to himself. “You know, I was planning to marry you sometime in December to match Christmas and your birthday. Everything in one month, just for you.” He smiled sadly. “Our wedding would have been grand. I was going to invite Yoongi and Jimin just because I know they’re your best friends. After, we would move in together. Get that dog you’ve always wanted, right? What did you name the little guy from the pet shop again? Yeontan?”

Tears dripped onto the floor and stained his expensive suit. “I wish we could do all of that. I wish you could be mine forever and ever. This shouldn’t have happened to you. You didn’t deserve this life.” He sniffled, placing a hand on the white coffin. “I don’t know if you still have my engagement ring on you or not, but I hope you do. Keep it on you and know that I will forever be yours.”

“Seokjin!” he heard from the doors of the chapel. His father was standing there, ready to leave.

He nodded, looking back to Taehyung and smiling. He took the mason jar in his hands and set it on the table next to the coffin. He had gone to the woods a day before to gather some fireflies, and, like Taehyung had, put them in the same mason jar in his memory. “I love you,” Seokjin whispered for Taehyung’s ears only before he walked back to his father and shut the door, leaving the church dark and lifeless.

There was no light left in the chapel save for that of the fireflies.

 

--

 

Seokjin had just turned twenty-nine when his father resigned, making Seokjin the owner of the hospital. He grew closer to Jimin and Yoongi over the years and was Yoongi’s best man at their wedding a year prior to his promotion. 

The first thing he did after his succession was turn the hospital a more vibrant color. There were no longer dull, grey walls, but pink and yellow ones instead. He didn’t spend a single day not thinking about how Taehyung would have wanted it. He added a play room for the children Taehyung always played with and kept his hospital room free of patients, leaving a celebratory shrine there for him instead. Seokjin could imagine Taehyung smiling from ear to ear at everything, remarking that the colors made the hospital much prettier.

Not a single day has passed that Seokjin didn’t think about him. Afterall, the boy was his first love, his first boyfriend, and he was supposed to be his husband if he survived to see that day. He still missed his smile, missed his hugs, and, most importantly, he missed his company. No one his age is admitted to the fifth floor anymore and his friends comprised of only a couple outside of work.

In fact, he was supposed to meet Yoongi at his house to catch up on his plans about becoming a professional music producer but became sidetracked when he encountered a large banner in front of a new cafe. There was a small mason jar that held a summer fruit drink in it, its sides adorned with a small umbrella and strawberries. Seokjin stopped to look at it and his heart throbbed at the sight of it.

“Cool, right?”

Seokjin jumped, and, when he turned his head, he saw a tall man with purple hair. He had dimples and a pink apron wrapped around his thin body. The sight of him made Seokjin turn red, almost covering his mouth because of how handsome he is. The man laughed, and his heart fluttered at the sound. “Whoops, I didn’t mean to scare you! I just caught you staring at the banner. It’s kind of a trend now. Drinks in jars, that is.”

Seokjin turned red and he didn't know how to reply. “Oh, uh…” The words his past lover spoke flew through his mind, making everything around him a blur.

I want you to find someone that will treat you right. Someone that won’t make you cry or make you sad. Someone who loves you as much as I do.

He blinked for a moment and tears burned the back of his eyes. Seokjin nodded after a second of staring. “You’re right, it is kind of cool,” he replied with a smile. “You work here?”

He hummed. “And I own the place, too!” he added with a gummy smile.

“Nice,” Seokjin said, looking into the cafe. “This place is new. Did you just get it built?”

The man nodded. “That's right,” he glanced at the ground nervously before extending his arm out. “I'm new here, too. Name's Namjoon.”

Seokjin froze for a moment, staring at his hand and biting his lip. He glanced at the sky.

Can you do that for me?

He eased into a smile and held his hand out, taking Namjoon’s hand firmly in his grasp.

“I'm Seokjin.”